Middle school students write letters to seniors as a part of a Pen Pal Program
As a part of the South West Middle School class, Helping Hawks, students are encouraged to take part in community service projects, including the pen pal program where they write letters to elderly residents in senior living homes.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Letters to the elderly are a part of the ‘Helping Hawks’ class at South West Middle School. The class is an elective for students looking to get involved in the community.
The class helps to instill in students a sense of civic duty in the community and the feeling of togetherness.
Jason Olson, 7th grade languages teacher & Helping Hawks class instructor, says, “We want these kids to realize that giving back not only helps their community but it helps them and it makes them feel good about themselves. With COVID going on there is so many people… they can’t even get out and people can’t come visit them, so when they get a letter from somebody, it can make their day. ”
The students write about themselves and ask questions to the residents, like details of their childhood and pen wishes for hope and well-being for the person reading the letter.
Bethany Bogner, Resident Experience Coordinator at Holiday Hills Estates, says, “A lot of people don’t write anymore, so to see the students and the residents interacting and writing to one another, is just a wonderful thing going on right now.”
Some students have even started their own projects with groups outside of school, inspired by what they are doing in the class.
Maia Kowalski, student and Helping Hawks class member, says, “I think it’s important because you send people who needs things, you can help them out and then if people are struggling you can also help them. They can hear some happy thoughts and they are being cared about.”
Lynette Fredericksen, a resident at Holiday Hills, said she responded to all 7 letters she’s received and considers the students intelligent and inquisitive.
Fredericksen goes on to say, “Letter writing is almost non existent because of modern technology so I really admire the teacher that come up with this idea and the students that are willing to do it.”
Fredericksen plans on keeping all the letters and referring back to them in the future.
The helping hawks class is also writing letters to veterans to be delivered in senior living homes by Veterans’ Day, next week.